Nissan is another, or at least it tries to be. At the recent Automotive News Manufacturing Conference, I heard John Miller, vice president of purchasing for Nissan North America, talk about some of the techniques the company employs. He made reference to cross-functional teams, “kaizen-type activity” and other lean methods. He also said, a bit defensively, “we have our own
However, for me, the most telling remark came when Miller was asked to characterize the Nissan culture. His comment: “we’re a very self-challenging company; we are never happy.” That, of course, is the right kind of attitude, one that goes to the very heart of continuous improvement.
The conference also included a tour of Nissan’s 5.4-million-square-foot plant in
The plant, opened in 1983, is a busy operation with a high degree of automation (approximately 1,000 robots). Nissan employs 8,300 people in mid-Tennessee, and the plant – which makes two cars, two SUVs and a pickup truck – has a capacity of 550,000 vehicles annually.
Frankly, for a company that professes to be lean, I didn’t see as much in the way of visual controls as I expected at the plant. Perhaps that’s an area in need of some kaizen events.
By the way, Miller admitted that 2006 was a “challenging” year; for the quarter ending March 31, Nissan reported global operating profit of about $1.9 billion (
The figures suggest that Nissan has some distance to go to achieve the kind of lean success enjoyed by